Back in 2011 Queensland’s cold case unit revealed that they were reviewing the 1993 disappearance of Leslie Ralph Ball from Townsville after new information was passed on from interstate. It has now been 25 years since the disappearance, there have been no charges, and almost no information has been made public. Interestingly, due to massive police oversight, Ball was never publicly recorded as a missing person or murder victim – which has only recently been rectified – and there is no reward for information unlike most similar cases that have a $250K incentive.
Photo: The only photo that has been made public of the missing man.
Ball was aged 71 and living with his family on Yolanda Drive at the time of his disappearance. He was last seen on 18 April 1993 and investigations revealed that a train ticket had been collected in the name of L. R. Ball for the next day to travel from Townsville to Dalby via Brisbane.
The story on Ball’s ‘missing person’s report’ states that that Ball had left Townsville to visit his daughter at the PA hospital. It continues to describe that he had visited his daughter in the hospital on the 21 April and had stated that he would return to visit her the following day, however he never returned. This however, is incorrect – and is a lie told to police by the prime suspect – David Phillips. Phillips was Ball’s son-in-law, who was married to his daughter Leanne (who had been in the hospital at the time).
Investigators soon discovered that the signature on the train ticket was forged and did not belong to Ball and the reserved seat to Brisbane was marked as ‘unoccupied’ on the day. Police subsequently believed that Ball never made it to Brisbane and believe that he went missing in Townsville – and that the story was created to steer investigations away from Townsville.
Photo: Ball’s car was found at the Townsville Railway Station.
After receiving information from the public, police were able to find Ball’s vehicle parked at the Townsville Railway Station and a burnt-out trailer belonging to Ball was found in bushland off Jurekey Street on 8 July 1993.
Photo: Ball’s trailer was found burnt-out in bushland.
Upon questioning police stated that they were ‘confident of a positive result in the investigation into the suspected murder’ of Ball, and the coroner’s court had stated that they are looking to re-open the inquest, however processes seem to be moving very slowly with no public knowledge of the case and the family being kept in the dark.
Ball’s daughter has fought hard to find justice for her father but has had a number of disputes with investigators due to poor investigative work and a lack of communication. This lack of police communication with the family of the missing person seems to be a theme throughout most case files – notably with the Janine Vaughn and Tony Jones cases where the family are fighting hard to hold the police accountable for the lack of investigations.
Police unofficially had a strong suspect – the aforementioned David Phillips – who had been a key figure in the Melbourne underworld at the time of the disappearance, and who used to work in forensics so may have some inside knowledge to avoid detection. There is no public record of this however, and they have insufficient evidence to charge him.
Hopefully Ball’s story will be picked up by the media with the possibility of a new inquest, and the police will be under more pressure to get closure for the family. With little being known by the public – no motives, no leads and no real information – it is hard to appeal to the public and push for justice. Anyone with information that could assist police further is urged to contact Crime Stoppers anonymously on 1800 333 000.